Sudden death spurs menningitis investigation

Health personnel and family members are hoping that a post-mortem examination scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. will provide some answers in the death of 5 year old student Veronica Cal.
The child, who had hearing and speech impediments attended the Stella Maris School in Belize City. She became ill suddenly last week Thursday, and this week Tuesday she died at the KHMH.

Her parents, Mario Cal and Filiberta Salam, are grieving the loss of their youngest child. They say she was fine last Thursday night, and was doing magic tricks in the parlour of their home on Hunter’s Lane when she suddenly started vomiting. They monitored her, and when they discovered a slight fever on Friday, they gave her medication which they keep at home. She showed no improvement, though, and by Sunday could not keep down food or water. They took her to the Cleopatra White Health Centre, but nobody could tell them what was wrong with her. So on Monday they took her to the emergency ward at the KHMH and doctors immediately admitted her.

Mario Cal told the Reporter that his daughter was put on drips and given oxygen, but nothing seemed to help and it was obvious that she was in pain. Her mother, Filiberta Salam, recalls that by Tuesday she was bleeding from the nose and mouth .
Ministry of Health personnel have confirmed to the Reporter that by the time Veronica Cal was admitted, she was already in a critical condition. Despite every effort to save her, she died on Tuesday.

Tests conducted have confirmed that she had contracted the bacteria, “Pneumococcus”, and that due to other factors, it had progressed to pneumococcal meningitis. She was also diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection and acute gastroenteritis.

On Wednesday the Public Health Department visited the Stella Maris School in Belize City to take samples, do testing and issue preventive medication to students. They also visited the home of Veronica Cal to determine if there were any conditions in which she may have contracted the bacteria. That investigation, we are told, is complete and both locations have been given a clean bill by inspectors.

Still, the word meningitis is enough to strike fear among people, and the Ministry of Health is working to dispel those fears. Like the family, which wants answers, they are awaiting the results of the post mortem examination, which will determine what factors contributed to the death of this child who, less than a week ago, was healthy, happy, and very much alive.

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